John Belham-Payne is probably best known for being the last magical working partner of Doreen Valiente. John became interested in Witchcraft while working as a drummer in rock bands in his teens in an area of the UK called The Black Country where he was brought up. Not that he knew that his spirituality even had a name. He had a spiritual moment that altered his view on things and after looking at every religion from both West and Eastern traditions to find a suitable belief system, was told by a college professor that he was probably a Witch. At the time John was just 17 and when he did find a working coven, was told that he could not become a member until he had first reached 18 and secondly served at least a year and a day as a prospective candidate or postulant. This particular order was very strict and it took John 4 years to become initiated as Witch at 1st degree. In those days there was no internet and hardly any books on the subject, so everything was passed on in the aural tradition and John had to copy his initiators Book of Shadows. There are 3 levels of ‘the Craft’. Each with it’s own initiation process. His 2nd degree came some 7 or 8 years later and into a different coven. This time in Sussex where he had moved to several years before. “My Traditional Craft teaching says that these things happen when they are meant to and despite being offered my 3rd degree many time over the next few years there was something inside me that said I was not ready or worthy of the title High Priest” So it was that 28 years after being initiated John became the last High Priest of Doreen Valiente. He had for some time started to work with her and she had become Patron of the Centre For pagan Studies, an organisation he and his wife Julie had set up in 1995 as a resource for those interested in Paganism in many of it’s forms. Doreen had at this stage the news that she was dying and that John would need the 3rd degree status for the legacy she had decided to bequeath to him. “When the teacher is ready the student will arrive” is the way that Doreen put it.
The Centre For Pagan Studies
John and his wife Julie set up the CFPS in 1995. More as a backlash against bogus Witchcraft courses being sold. John was taught and is fully behind the standpoint that the Craft can only be taught in person by one person to another and eye to eye. He is against the internet schools, as no true Witch would be involved in such a thing, though would hate to be seen as hard line. When Doreen Valiente died in 1999 she did so with John holding her hand and taking her to the Summerlands. A journey that Doreen showed him and trained him how to get there. Doreen bequeathed to John her world famous magical artifact collection, her poetry and the copyright of her work. When he questioned why to him? Doreen replied that he would know what to do with it all! This year we are celebrating 20 years and have thousands of followers. We provide a good media service and now with Ashley Mortimer we have spread our involvement